A new, green east-west public transport system for Hertfordshire is set to connect its biggest towns with Stansted Airport.
The county council has revealed its vision for a mass rapid transit (MRT) system to run from Hemel Hempstead and Watford in West Hertfordshire, with those routes joining just south of St Albans then on to Harlow in West Essex and onwards to the airport.
No decision has yet been made on the exact route of the Hertfordshire-Essex Rapid Transit (HERT), the type of vehicle or the stations it will serve, but MRTs often take the form of electric railways.
One of the HERT’s key features will be the development of transport hubs, connecting planned cycling and walking routes to the new MRT network to create an integrated system, helping to reduce congestion and pollution through reliance on cars and improving air quality.
It will be accessible, reliable and affordable, connecting people to where they live, work, study and visit from West Herts to West Essex in a more environmentally friendly way and supporting local economies.
Any project will take several years to plan before construction can start and will require local and central government funding and private sector investment.
The HERT is the county council’s response to more than 100,000 new jobs and more than 100,000 new homes planned in Hertfordshire over the next 15 years as the county’s population is expected to rise by up to 175,000, to more than 1.4 million, by 2031.
This autumn, the public will be asked for their views on the towns and key transport interchanges the HERT could serve between Hemel and Harlow. Ahead of this, the county council will engage with local communities, civic groups, businesses and other organisations.
The council is working on a strategic outline business case to submit to the Government. This will explore what benefits the HERT could provide, the options available and potential costs. The aim of the document is to secure funding to develop the project.
In July 2019, the county council declared a climate emergency. Three months later it agreed to develop a detailed proposal for the HERT to run along the A414 corridor and has been working with district and borough councils and key stakeholders to develop the proposal.
Cllr Richard Roberts, leader of HCC and new chair of the Hertfordshire Growth Board, said: “Sustainable travel is one of the most important aspects of our plans to create a cleaner, greener Hertfordshire and investment in this new transport initiative to connect West Hertfordshire to West Essex marks a clear step forward in achieving our aims.
“It will provide a fast, reliable and convenient way to travel across the county and support our ambitions to enable all residents to live healthy, fulfilling lives in thriving, prosperous communities.”
Hertfordshire Growth Board is made up of the county council, the 10 district and borough councils and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.